In my last prospect security check, I went over Atlanta’s Christian Pache, Miami’s Sixto Sanchez and Detroit’s Tarik Skubal. Since then, both Pache and Skubal have received the call to the Bigs, and I predicted we might even see all three in 2020 when I originally wrote the piece. The same is not the case for this week’s lucky luggage — Jazz Chisholm, Oneil Cruz and Blake Walston — although they are all equally thrilled to be featured in one of my articles. In fact, I actually just got off the phone with Jazz, who is one of the few remaining real baseball players left at the Jupiter training site. After thanking me for including him in my article, Jazz began telling me how even though no one else is left in camp except him, he made a new friend: a baseball named Bilson whose face he drew on with a Sharpie. Times have apparently been tough in Jupiter — Jazz also has an imaginary cat named Tom Mattingly.
As poor Jazz sends smoke signals to Derek Jeter from the training site, we must press on with this security check. Unlike the last installment, we’ll probably be waiting until 2021 to see Chisholm and Cruz crack the MLB, while Walston won’t debut until 2022-23. That said, I’ve done my best to gather information about all three of these players and provide my own personal spin on each, despite the fact that there is no new statistical information to reveal. As one last reminder, all three players I’ll go over today were previously requested in the comments section by the readers of Razzball. If there is a particular prospect you would like to see an in-depth profile for in the future, just say so. If you’re on the fence, please keep it to yourself because the more of these profiles I write, the more Grey will make fun of me for writing 1,000 words on a single player in his daily round-ups. Alright, before we get to cruzin’ and waltzin’ — let’s start it off with some smooth Jazz.
Last summer, Jeter pulled a Jeter and traded for a toolsy, athletic position player with questionable bat-to-ball skills. It was a precedented move, as once again he did so by trading away a young, cheep and controllable MLB player (see: Yelich, Christian). However, last summer he one-upped himself by trading away all six-plus years of control of Zac Gallen to acquire Jazz Chisholm, who at the time was hitting .204/.305/.427 with a 33.8% strikeout rate through 89 Double-A games to start the year. WOOF. Why, Jeets?
Now, let’s be fair. Heading into 2019, Chisholm was a consensus top-70 prospect, peaking at No. 59 on Baseball America’s list. He was coming off a 2018 season (A, A+) in which he slashed a far superior .272/.329/.513 with 25 homers, 17 steals, a 7.8% walk rate and a 29.7% strikeout rate. Chisholm played that entire season as a 20-year-old, so the upside was tantalizing with legitimate in-game power and speed already shining through, while the strikeouts seemed to be of little concern given the changing climate of the game and the sheer youth of the player. When I think of Chisholm’s bright 2018 campaign, I think Jazz hands. Some razzle-dazzle filled with optimism — maybe even a smile here and there.
Enter 2019 Jazz. The Double-A rendition lacked the energetic hand motion and sounded more like a sad blues melody played on a beaten-down jazz piano in the corner of the room. Still, there were a few high notes in his 364 plate appearances prior to his trade to Miami: 18 homers, 13 steals, an improved 11.3% walk rate, as well as some added extra base pop in the form of five triples and six doubles. But that all came with the aforementioned .204/.305/.427 slash with a 33.8 K%. *hands shift down on the piano to the deep keys* DUN DUN DUN.
Upon being traded away for Gallen, Chisholm bounced back for a .284/.383/.494 line with three homers and three steals over the final 23 games of the season. The strikeouts dropped to 25.5%, while the walks stayed roughly the same at 11.7%. Plus, he ended the season with a 91.4 MPH average exit velocity and hit 48% of batted balls over 95 MPH — both of which would rank within the top 40 in the MLB. As you can see, Jazz hits the ball hard while deploying a lofty left-handed swing.
You want a Jazz Chisholm 395-foot dinger?
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) March 8, 2020
So the question becomes, did Jeter and Michael Hill pull the trigger for Chisholm because they had hard data, or at the very least, a mechanical adjustment, to help improve Chisholm’s ability to consistently make contact? If not, why even make the deal? Did they really want another Lewis Brinson/Monte Harrison type, or does Jazz represent a sturdier building block — smooth Jazz, if you will? Chisholm’s sample size in a Marlins uni is far too small to tell, but he did continue to rake in the Puerto Rican Winter League (.286/.333/.457) in an 11-game cameo over the off-season. The natural tools are there and all have the ability to develop into above average-to-plus, with the exception of the hit tool, which may only ever be average at best. The variance in Chisholm’s floor and ceiling make him a risky investment in dynasty formats, and although I don’t think Chisholm ever achieves quite the MLB career that Javier Baez has, the comps from a risk-reward standpoint are clearly there. Although I’ve stated it in the past, I am a Chisholm believer, and on this security check, I still highly advise you to pack until we get more data. Then again, who should really be flying right now, anyway?
With Cruz’s gargantuan size, there’s an equal amount of skepticism to offset the excitement. When the Dodgers signed him for just under $1 million in 2015, Cruz was 16 years old and somewhere between 6-foot-4 to 6-foot-5. Now at age 21, he’s grown another two-to-three inches. It seems incredibly unlikely he’ll stick at shortstop, although many feel he could make it work and Cruz himself is intent on trying. I personally don’t see it happening, but as we’ve observed in the past, an organization is willing to give it a try to see if they can get a plus-power bat at a premium defensive position. Which, he has…
few prospects make me go ??? more than Oneil Cruz. he's listed at 6'6" (but is definitely taller) and he is just PLAYING SHORTSTOP and might be able to stick there??? also he's only 20 and is hitting monster HRs in big league Spring Training games??? SUREpic.twitter.com/7GBh5Wn5z4
— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) March 23, 2019
With a 50-hit tool, 60-power and 55-legs, Cruz has been a more consistent offensive performer than Chisholm over the last two Minor League seasons. In 2018, he played the entire season at Single-A West Virginia (Note: not intended as an adjective for West Virginia, although it could be) and batted .286/.343/.488 with 14 home runs and 11 steals, a 7.7 BB% and 22.6 K% over 103 games. Splitting time evenly between High-A and Double-A (35 games apiece) last year, he produced an almost identical .298/.356/.475 line with eight homers and 11 stolen bases, although in 30 fewer games than 2018. That’s right — a .001 increase in OPS. They say progress is progress, right? On the flip side, walks stayed consistent, rising 0.5% to an 8.2 walk rate, but the strikeout rate jumped to 25.3%.
Here’s where it gets iffy and why I’m not personally in on Pittsburgh’s uber-talented young shortstop at the moment. There’s a lot of moving parts in the swing for someone his size — he’s not exactly compact and rotational-based like an Aaron Judge. The holes showed over this previous off-season in the Arizona Fall League (.190/.306/.214), as well as the Dominican Winter League (.185/.267/.259), where he popped zero combined homers and tallied just three extra base hits in 22 games with a 39.2% strikeout rate. Woah! Monte Harrison territory! (I still have faith.)
Cruz still won’t turn 22 until October and that provides optimism, as he’s still getting to know his recently-developed frame and learning how to keep it under control in order to maximize his tools. For me, there’s a little too much going on here — both in terms of his development and his swing — for me to be buying at his cost of a consensus top-70 prospect. Still, I admit the upside is enticing, but it’s a gamble I’m okay losing out on. Even though they have some new leadership leading the charge, I don’t trust Pittsburgh to develop this guy properly at all. Am I shallow if I really let that influence me as much as it does? *thinks of Gregory Polanco and how beautiful his swing was in the upper Minors* Nope. If you can force yourself to trust the Pirates, and/or if you’re already in on the hype, you should probably hold. If you’re more like me, or hearing about Cruz for the fist time… unpack.
Blake Walston | LHP | Arizona Diamondbacks | 6′ 5″ | 175 lbs. | 2019: ROK
Requested by: NUX
Walston will be the final and briefest breakdown of this security check — so I’ve nicknamed him Aunt Belinda, who signed up for TSA Pre and is waiting on the other side of the metal detectors while the rest of your family slowly waddles through (we all have an Aunt Belinda, just insert name above). As a first round pick at the back-end of the 2019 MLB Draft, Walston is currently the Diamondbacks’ No. 6 prospect and top overall pitching prospect. He may not be a top 100 prospect by most accounts, but he’s probably still in the top 120 range, give or take. Like a lot of rising prospects, Walston is the type of guy we might be talking about a lot more right now if we had added data from a 2020 Minor League season.
Blake Walston, the #Dbacks pick at #26, allowed 2 earned runs over 68? innings this season.
In his first taste of pro action, Walston turned heads by reaching 96-97 MPH with his 60-grade heater after being 84-89 MPH in front of scouts for many of his pre-draft outings. Still, those who saw him when he was on got a glimpse of 90-93 MPH velocity, although he sometimes had trouble holding it later into starts. As a typical high school arm that gets labeled as “projectable,” Walston turned enough heads to go in the first round and the velocity is already trending upwards. Rounding out the arsenal is a pair of promising breaking pitches — a tight, plus curveball and an average slider (categorized more as a slurve according to some scouts) that flashes plus-to-plus-plus when it’s working — as well as an average changeup that could also develop into a plus offering. As a result, there’s frontline starter potential with Walston, but he has a high risk level due to being a raw prep arm that’s still developing velocity and has little-to-no Minor League experience.
What MiLB experience he does have is that of 11 innings split between Rookie ball and Low-A in 2019. Don’t take it for much, but he did churn out a 2.45 ERA and 0.91 WHIP with a 17-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in that time. At just 19 years of age, I like him more than some of the arms filling spots 70-100 on certain top prospect lists such as MLB.com’s, but he’s a project and far from a sure thing, so I leave you today with a gray area call. Pack if the cost is low and your dynasty roster already has enough prospect talent on the verge of the MLB, unpack if not — or if you’re the kind of person who pays extra for two-day shipping or Googles the winner of MTV reality shows during Episode 1. Your filthy need for instant gratification can only get you so far! Personally, I’m in on the kid — it just sucks we don’t have more to go off of this summer.
As always, I’m happy to take this conversation into the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs. And what’s that!? *puts hand to earpiece, listens to voice on the other end* I’m hearing now that my 100th follower will receive an authentic “Grey sipping boba” bobblehead! It’s tough to find deals that good these days.